Saturday, 12 August 2017

I'm on a bit of a hiatus.

I spent the last week in Yarmouth at the cabin and this weekend I'm off to the wilderness of Norther NB to hike. So I'm going to say I'm on vacation because I haven't had any time on the computer to write. I'm still very excited about my book contract! Hope everyone is having a great August!

Sunday, 6 August 2017

I'M GOING TO BE PUBLISHED!!!


Back in December I mentioned that I had submitted the manuscript I had been working on about my transplant story to a publisher. I thought it would be fun to try going through official channels of publishing instead of doing it myself this time. After being asked for the full manuscript a few months later (one of the more exciting emails in my life) and then asked to revise and resubmit, I got the following email:
And I signed the contract with Nimbus on Wednesday!!!!!!! AHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!

I'm stoked. I feel like a real writer!

The publishing date is going to be sometime in Spring 2019 which feels very far away but the publishing industry does not move very quickly. They also want to give a lot of time for editing and revising. It's going to be very different and a much longer process than my self-published experience.
But it's also more exciting to be working with a real publisher. So many more things to think about. I need to get headshots done! Eek!

Look for me on your bookshelves in 2019!!

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Improvement!

I went for lung function test last week and....I got a 80%!! My highest yet! I was pretty excited afterward. Of course it was one time and I didn't repeat it but who cares, I got there once. How is this possible that it keeps going up? Not that I'm complaining but I am pleasantly confused.

I was told my numbers would be stable after the first year but I guess with the cancer out of my system, my body is still healing itself. Sometimes I forget that the healing process can be so long. Plus all the hiking and jogging is probably helping to strengthen my lungs. 

The other news is that the team in Toronto would like to see me for my 3 year assessment in November. This was up for debate because the NS government has decided that it no longer wants to fund stable post-transplant people going to Toronto for their yearly assessment. However, it has been decided that although I'm "doing well," the team would still like to see me this year. Fair enough. No complaints from me as long as they keep their promise that I will not need a bronch!

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Haircut

I got a haircut this week! My first post-cancer haircut. I sat in the little chair and the hairdresser asked the standard "so how long as it been since your last cut?" Then I had to go into the whole "it's growing back since it all fell out during chemo, so my last cut was technically when the barber shaved it off in Dec 2015." I feel like it's always such a long spiel every time it comes up but I have it down now.

The hairdresser just shaped it a bit to make the curls a bit more organized. It feels much lighter.
Before.
After!

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Cape Breton

We had a wonderful time in Cape Breton! We did a ton of hikes (some in the rain, some in the sun), swam at the beach, and I even got a bit of a sunburn. I was not prepared for the sun. For some reason in my head, Cape Breton is always 16 degrees and rainy. So I packed 4 pairs of pants and they never left the car. I guess it's better to have them as an option than to have them sitting at home and being cold.

We did not see any moose or whales which was a bit disappointing. Not that I have much experience with the Cape Breton Highlands but the one other time I was there, we saw whales twice from shore and there seemed to be moose wandering all over the park. This time they avoided us. The muffler on our poor car gave out halfway there so perhaps we scared them all away while powering up the hills.

We kept hearing about moose sightings from other hikers like "someone told me there was a moose up there to the left" and "a bull moose just chased us down the trail (I think those people may have been exaggerating slightly)" but they were all gone by the time we arrived. Just as well we never saw one while driving. I would rather them stay in the woods than be in front of my car. Plus it gives us something to look forward to the next time we go!

It was such a nice mini vacation. Now we need to get the muffler fixed.

Classic Cape Breton from the Skyline trail.
Sunset from the Acadien trail.
Isaiah checking out the rocks at Mica Hill
I enjoyed the view more but the sparkling ground was really unique. 
Top of Franey Mtn.
Swimming at the little waterfall after the hike.
Beautiful sunset at the campground.
Beach!
Staring off the cliff at Middle Head looking at birds.
Campsite. We somehow take up so much room with such a little tent.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

The Chief.

In Vancouver, Melissa and I did a hike called "The Chief" while Amy slept in. The trail is basically walking up uneven steps the entire way with some ladders and chains to help you climb the boulders at the end. It's a very intense hike. We did it really early in the morning which was a brilliant idea as the day ended up being really hot (plus Melissa had to work in the afternoon). I had the jelly legs on the way back down, that feeling when your legs are wobbling and you aren't 100% sure that they'll keep holding you up. But I made it back down and spent the rest of the day on Melissa's lounger with my books and cold beverages.

Going to the top!
The only way is up.
I'm smiling but it's mostly because the cold ladder felt good. You can see the sweat/sunscreen dripping off my face.
Keep going up!
Worth it.
Don't drop the car keys!
Glancing at peak two (to the right) and thankful we decided to do just one of them. Maybe next time...
Isaiah and I are now on a little camping trip to Cape Breton. We figured we may as well go before he gets a job (fingers crossed that he'll soon get a job). I don't think the hikes will be quite as intense. When the guides say "medium or hard" I know what they mean. Not in Vancouver where it says "some stairs" and you end up climbing stairs for an hour. People who live in BC are on a different level than the rest of us.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Pictures of Vancouver.

We made it back from Vancouver! Just in time to have a rainy Canada Day in Halifax. I'm still recovering from jetlag because that seems to take way longer than it should after a vacation. I may also be in coffee withdrawal as I drank way more coffee on the trip than I normally do.

We had such a wonderful vacation. Full of hiking and being out in nature. It was exactly what I was hoping for when I decided to go to Vancouver. We even saw orcas! I didn't have any medical problems so now I'm feeling confident to leave the country. Maybe not quite to visit David in New Zealand but somewhere in Europe would be fun.

Amy has started the long, terrible process of sorting through our travel pictures and has made it through the first few days.

To help keep us awake when we arrived, we went to Lynn Canyon Park to check out the suspension bridge and river.
It looks like a dinosaur is about to come running through the woods.
The next day we took the water taxi over to the city and cycled around Stanley Park. Melissa and Amy rented a tandem and did surprisingly well around all the corners.
On the rainy Sunday, Melissa and I hiked around this lake while Amy read her book.
I found a goose friend along the way.
Monday, Amy and I went on a hike overlooking Deep Cove.
Amy made it with me carrying her oxygen. Afterward we got donuts in town.
After our hike and donuts, we sat in a park in Horseshoe Bay and watched porpoises and seals.
No complaints about the view.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Vancouver!

I'm in Vancouver with Amy! I missed posting last week because I was hiking around a lake and I completely forgot. I'm having a wonderful time and will post many pictures once I get home. The next few days are going to be hot hot so I think the hiking will be at a min and instead I'll be sitting by a lake or river staying cool.

Monday, 12 June 2017

To Grampy David Watson

My grandfather died this past week. We had the funeral and burial yesterday in Centerville, NB where he laid to rest beside my Grandmother.

Grampy could be ridiculous at times.
My childhood memories of Grampy are vague. They mostly involve him leaving for the woods in the wee hours of the morning and returning at lunchtime to have a nap. And then not seeing him again until suppertime when we would have a meal of meat and potatoes because anything different like pizza or lasagna was considered "exotic."  In the evenings we would often play cards and no one wanted to be on his team because if you played the wrong card, you would hear about it.

As children, when we visited, we would run around the old farmhouse-turned-barn, jumping from the hayloft and feeding the cows. We would dare each other to go to the upper levels of the house and hold our breaths to see if the person would fall through the floor (it never happened). We would ride with Grampy in his truck and ask why the floor was packed with kitty litter boxes (it was his way of fixing a hole in the floor). He would often recruit us to pick off potatoes bugs from his garden but I'm pretty sure I just ended up eating the beans rather than being helpful.
Old farmhouse/barn
As a grandchild, you only ever see one small window into the life of your grandparent. You meet them after they've raise their children, after they've had a career, and when they are very much set in their routines. I don't think you really see them as a person with a life before you until you grow up yourself.

To me, Grampy was always the man who worked in the woods cutting down trees, watched TV way too loud, and liked to read books. He was hard to buy for because he would return most presents so we gave his candy during the holidays. Every time he saw Isaiah, he thanked him for taking care of me or for driving Amy and I to see him even though Isaiah had sat in the backseat the entire time. He saw the world in the certain way and enjoyed arguing that with other people.

As I've gotten older and heard more stories, I've started to learn about the complexities of my Grandfather. He was very pragmatic about nature and the circle of life. The deer heads hanging on the wall taught us pretty quickly about where meat came from. So it was a surprise to all of the grandchildren to have confirmation of the family legend that he couldn't take the cow that was named after one of the grandchildren to be slaughtered. He couldn't bring himself to "kill Andy." It was probably the last time the grandchildren were allowed to name the animals.

He was frugal and concerned about money but it was always to make sure his family would be taken care of. He sometimes took it a bit to the extreme. Like how he refused to buy new knobs for his stove top even though there was only one left so he had to switch it around if there was more than one burner on. How he "rescued" the "perfectly good" shirts that Grammy threw out and cut off the one good arm to would sew it to the body of another shirt. Nothing was ever to be wasted or thrown away.
Who needs this many saws?
I heard many stories of Grampy over this past weekend from his younger days. About how good he was at baseball. About how he loved to fish and play hockey. About how he made a rink for his children when they were little. About how good of a shot he was while hunting. A story that seems like family lore about how he once shot two birds with one bullet.

He loved family reunions and anniversary parties. He loved any time the family would get together to celebrate an occasion. We had to stop the traditional family softball games because he was still so competitive in his 80s that he slide into first base to avoid getting out (I wonder where we all get our competitiveness from). He tore his Achilles tendon but didn't tell anyone for over a day. He needed a cast and instead of staying inside to heal, he drove his lawnmower all over the property like a mobile scooter to tend to his garden and do other chores. It was hard to convince him to slow down. He had a giant 90th birthday party earlier this year which was attended by seemingly the entire family.

He was so happy to beat everyone at the family reunion sac race.
He was determined he would stay in his home until the day he died, and he did. He was still making rhubarb juice and clearing brush from his property the day before he died. He had his garden planted. I picked two tomatoes from the plants he had growing in his house. He had started an orange tree from a seed he planted.

On Saturday, armed with a hammer and axe handle for spiderweb protection, Amy and I went through the old barn for what will probably be the last time. We took pictures of all the old farm gear and laughed that anyone let us play in that place.
The old farmhouse is kind of creepy now.
Can't believe we use to play in here.
On Sunday I picked Grampy's rhubarb and today I've spent the afternoon making juice and freezing the rest for future pies.

I hope he died knowing that he took care of his family. That his family loved him and we'll continue to tell stories about him for years to come.

"No-one is finally dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away - until the clock he wound wears down, until the wine she made has finished its ferment, until the crop they planted is harvested. The span of someone's life, they say, is only the core of their actual existence.”
 ― Terry Pratchett, Reaper Man

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Biking

This week I biked to the beach for the first time this year. No, it wasn't warm enough to swim or even to wade in the water but it was nice enough to sit by a rock, read my book, and enjoy the view. It only took me a little over two hours to get there compared to last year when it took about three. It was so easy this time. Ok, easy is overstating it, it was still a 40km bike ride. But the hills didn't seem as hilly and I didn't have to take so many breaks.
A really pretty view that does not photograph well.
I knew before the bike ride that I was physically stronger than I was a year ago but it's always nice to have these reminders. It affirms that all the exercising and terrible jogging I've been doing is actually helping. Even if my lung function isn't jumping up, the rest of my body is so much healthier overall which is great for my lung health.
The river!
The beach!
Like when Isaiah and I hiked around the trails by the Wentworth hostel two weeks ago. It was a trail I tried to do two years ago when I had cancer but wasn't yet diagnosed and almost fainted. My hemoglobin was so low that I couldn't make it up to the look-off. This time, not only did I make it to the look off, I did the entire loop.

I guess it's probably obvious that I would be stronger now than when I had cancer or was still recovering from chemotherapy. But the change has been so slow and gradual that I don't always notice. It's much more obvious when I can power up a hill on my bike that last year I would've had to stop on for a break. Or hiking up a steep section of a trail and not feeling light headed and short of breath.

It feels so amazing.
Apple blossoms in Wentworth Valley
The hike was 99% trees, streams, and mosquitoes.
The 1% that was a look-off (and mosquitoes)!

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Walk to make CF history

The Walk to make CF History was today! Thanks to everyone who donated to the cause and who came out in the cold yesterday to our yard sale in Petitcodiac. We appreciate everything that was donated and our team raised over 2500$. Yay!

Amy and I gave a little speech before the walk about having CF. We always feel that our speeches are a bit of a bummer but today especially so. I think it felt like more of a downer today because there were some kids there with CF and it was like we were telling them "You are going to go downhill. Enjoy your lung function now while you can. We are your future! Beware! P.S. Be a donor!" I mean, we don't say those words exactly and our speech is definitely more transplant-focused than perhaps someone elses would be. I guess we have to talk about their own experience and ours is at the "transplant" stage of having CF.

The only difference this year was that they set up a 5km run because they're trying to draw some new people from outside the usual families. But Isaiah and I ended up being the only ones running the 5km. Ah well. We still enjoyed it and I finished in under 40min! It wasn't quite as exhausting as the Transplant Trot but I'm still pretty tired sitting here tonight. I push myself much harder on these more official runs than I do when I'm outside on the trail by myself.

All in all, a great walk even though we didn't win any of the prizes. Oh well, there's always next year!

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Trip!

I finally got my trip cancellation insurance money back! What a huge relief is it to not have to think about it anymore.

You're probably wondering "what trip?" My planned Aruba trip in November 2015. The one I had to cancel because I was in the hospital being diagnosed with cancer. The one that was suppose to be my one-year post-transplant celebration. The trip that the rest of my family still went on without me because it seemed ridiculous to ruin their vacation just because I was stuck in the hospital. That one.

It's been a long fight with the company that I wasn't expecting because when I had to cancel my trip to Spain in 2013 due to hospitalization, I had zero issues. I sent in my paperwork and receipts and got my money back in 6-8 weeks. No questions and one form for the doctor to fill out. And that was related to my pre-existing condition so I was expecting a fight. This time was very, very different.

The day I was given my diagnosis and was told not to go to Aruba, Isaiah called United (United really is the worst but it was the cheapest) to set up the claim. We thought if we didn't delay, it would be easier. United sent the information to their subsidiary Allianz, who told him where to send the appropriate paperwork. We had that paperwork filled out by a doctor and waited two months to find out the claim was rejected because they said my doctor's visit several months before the trip counted as "active treatment."

I was so upset. My doctor visits are regular and there are often slight medication changes but my doctor had still said I was okay to travel. I made Isaiah deal with them because every time I would get on the phone to explain to the representative that my cancer was not related to my general check-up, I would start crying. I'm one of those people who cry frustration-tears and it didn't help that I was also in the middle of chemo so was incredibly emotional at the time. I didn't have any emotional energy to fight with an insurance company.

We appealed their decisions with more paperwork from a different doctor. Waited many months. Denied again.

Appealed their decision again with even more paperwork from the doctor. Waited many more months. Denied again.

Six months ago my doctor wrote a even stronger letter to the company and we weren't immediately denied, they simply requested more information. They asked for my medical file to be mailed to them. My medical file. Isaiah called and asked "her entire medical file?!" The man clarified that they just wanted the information from the initial hospitalization when my trip was cancelled.

I filed a request to the medical records section of the hospital for all my paperwork from my November-December admission in 2015. The woman asked if I wanted to have it printed and mailed to me. The cost was simply 40$ for the first 100 pages plus 0.25 cents per additional page plus shipping. The file was over 1000 pages.

The man from Allianz said paper copy was better but they would accept electronic "if we must." At over 250$ and 12% of a tree, I decided "we must email." Also, we have the technology, why do they make things so much more difficult? (I know the answer to that question) I opted for the cheaper option of having it mailed to me on a CD as a PDF instead. Once it showed up, Isaiah decrypted it and emailed the file to the company.

We waited another few months and I received an email saying the medical staff had overturned my initial rejection. I finally have a cheque in my hands (it's in the bank). What a relief. The drama is over.

And so I've booked a trip to Vancouver!!! Yay!!!!! In less than a month Amy and I will be getting on a plane and zooming off to find some mountains and killer whales. I'm unbelievably excited. I love traveling and exploring new places so much. It gives me so much energy. Leaving Atlantic Canada and not going to Toronto for the first time in 5 years!

I picked Vancouver for my first trip because:
1) I've wanted to go back and explore more since I was there cycling with David 9(!) years ago
2) I want to see some killer whales since the last ones I saw were in 1997 when we were there as a family
3) I want to hike all over the mountains
4) it's still in Canada so I have a safety net with good hospitals nearby if something goes wrong.

Amy and I have visited so many places together that being able to travel together again is the final confirmation that I'm healthy. After sitting in the hospital getting texts while she went to London, Germany, and Aruba without me, planning trips together makes me feel like my pre-transplant healthy self. How else to explain it than to say "I'm unbelievably excitement" about a million times.

Amy and Alley Adventure Again!

Without travel insurance for me this time, because if it took a year and half to get it back for getting cancer randomly, I'm definitely not getting it back now.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Hiking

Happy Mother's Day! We went on our annual Mother's Day hike along the Dobson trail. I say annual hike but really I haven't been on it for many, many years. It was really nice, the bugs were pretty terrible but we moved faster than them so that was fine.  Mom picked May flowers and Isaiah picked mushrooms to practice identifying with his new mushroom book. He was looking only, the mushrooms did not go into the supper's risotto.

I'm on the end of a 10 day steroid boost to try and eliminate my annoying cough. The Easter cold is still haunting me but hopefully this will fix it. My cough is getting better but I still have deep coughing fits every once in awhile. It's a fun reminder of how long I take to recover from a mild head cold and how careful I need to be around people.

The first few days of extra steroids, I couldn't focus on much but that's gotten better. I still get a boost of energy in the afternoon and am ravenously hungry most of the time. Hiking yesterday helped burn off some of that energy.

It was our first hike of the year and it felt nice to be in the woods again. Hopefully the first of many hikes to happen this summer!


Sunday, 7 May 2017

Cancer update: Still no cancer!

I had my one year hematology appointment and *drum roll* I'm still cancer-free! Woohoo!!!!

The doctor was fine with the lack of contrast dye on the CT scan so I don't have to go through all the stabbing until the next scan in a year. She called the lung spot from my last scan a "node" and not scarring like I had previously thought but didn't say that it had been cancerous. I assume it wasn't or else they would be doing more frequent scans. Either way, all the leftover little spots are gone and the big spot is practically gone now so that's all excellent news.

We went up to Halifax early so we could celebrate Isaiah's 34th birthday on Tuesday with a delicious sushi supper. Then we spent most of Wednesday wandering around Halifax which we usually don't have time to do. It was great.

Now that all the doctor appointments are over for another few months, Isaiah is starting the job applying/interview process which is stressful for both of us. But mostly for him. I'm trying to just be supportive by asking him a million practice interview questions. He's loving it.

Halifax!

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Transplant Trot!

I finished the Transplant Trot! And I didn't even throw up at the end! I would not recommend doing a run (I say run but really I run 1 min, walk 1 min) while getting over a cold. Or I should've taken a sinus medication because my nose got very runny at the halfway mark. It was uncomfortable. I also thought I was no longer congested but *surprise!* I was.

At about 3km, I thought I was done. I decided I would wait until Mom and Dad caught up with me and then could just walk the rest of the way with them. But then I jogged one more minute and somehow I kept going. The way back was more downhill (although it was pretty much flat) with a tailwind so that did help a bit. There was a woman in a pink t-shirt that I really wanted to finish ahead of. I would pass her during my one minute run and then she would pass me when I walked. It was a fun game for both of us.

I finished in 38:30 minutes! I made my goal! Yay!

My legs were throbbing last night. It shouldn't be surprising that preparing on the treadmill and the indoor rubberized walking track did not translate well to an semi-paved outdoor trail along the river. Now I never have to exercise again! Just joking, I'll give myself a few days off and then keep going because it's too good for my lungs to be able to stop now.

Isaiah ran the 10km and didn't end up walking it all. He was feeling quite ill on Thursday and hadn't trained as much as he had planned so he didn't have a time goal in mind. He just wanted to finish. He says he'll be sticking to 5km runs in the future.

We had so much energy at the start.
Just after the turn around spot. I am not a happy jogger.
Finished! (Posed picture once I caught my breath again)
Mom and Dad power-walked the 5km.
Amy was given a medal for cheering us on.
Isaiah is done! And ignores the man handing out medals.
We're ready for a nap!